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Love retires after 45 years at First Palmetto

Posted: January 31, 2014 1:54 p.m.
Updated: February 3, 2014 5:00 a.m.

Darlene Love drove her 1968 Ford Mustang to work Friday, her last day at First Palmetto Bank after a career spanning more than 45 years there. She drove the same car to work on her first day – Aug. 12, 1968.

A mainstay in the Camden banking industry is retiring after more than 45 years with the same company. Darlene Love of First Palmetto Bank was hired Aug. 12, 1968 as a teller and worked her way up the company ladder to the position of Vice President/Corporate Secretary.

Love, who was Darlene Hunter at the time, said she was educated at King’s College in Charlotte. She later married Eddie Love in 1971. The couple has an adult son, Trey, and two grandchildren. She said her years at First Palmetto have been a joy.

"It’s been wonderful. It’s been like a family," she said. "After I was a teller I started paying the insurance and taxes and doing secretarial work."

First Palmetto President and CEO Sammy Small said he was hired a mere six weeks after Love and immediately knew she was a great asset for the bank.

"She had the background of a first-rate secretary, but with her brain power we had so much more than just secretary work for her shortly after she was here," Small said.

Love said she has seen big changes in banking in the past 45 years.

"The technology is the biggest thing. We used to have ledger cards and you would post the accounts to the ledger cards. People would have pass books and you would have to balance the ledger cards every month," she said. "You would have to figure the interest with a calculator and if somebody made a withdrawal right before it was time to pay the interest, you would have to go back and make that adjustment. It was just so different from the way it is now."

Small said the business was much smaller when he and Love started, but it has grown tremendously since then. He said the banking industry was heavily regulated then, so the services offered were very limited.

"There were eight or nine of us here and we had assets of $12 million. Now we have about $550 million plus $200 million worth of services, so we service about $750 million worth of assets," he said. "We were a very small mutual savings and loan. Now we’re a state-chartered community bank. She’s seen everything and she’s like the keeper of the gate. Every confidential corporate matter, we turn over to her."

When Love arrived for work her first day in 1968 she was driving a 1968 Ford Mustang, a car she still owns and drove to work on her final day last Friday.

"I don’t to give you the impression that I’ve been driving it ever since. I haven’t been driving it every day," she said. "We wanted to get it restored. I have 45 more years on me and it has 45 more years on it. We kept it in the family. I let my brother drive it when he was working in Sumter. My dad bought it from me for that, then he sold it back to me when Trey was old enough to drive."

Small said he admires and appreciates Love’s dedication to her career.

"Not many people go to work and stay with the same employer for 45 years and not many people have moved their way from a teller to a top corporate officer," Small said. "It’s just unheard of and she has had quite a ride."

Love said even though she won’t be working, she has plenty to keep her busy.

"I want to learn to play the piano. I am also going to be more involved with the seniors at my church, Hermitage Baptist," she said. "I have a lot of things I want to do that I just haven’t had time for.



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